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Murrey and Blue interviews Michael K. Jones

  • Which of the Black Prince’s military achievements is the most impressive and why?

The main attraction in writing a biography of the Black Prince was to bring to life his martial exploits, for Edward of Woodstock, the eldest son of Edward III, captured the imagination of fourteenth century Europe. The chronicler Jean Froissart described him as ‘the flower of all chivalry’; the Chandos Herald, who fought with him, saw him as ‘the embodiment of all valour’. Thomas Walsingham wrote: ‘He never attacked a people he did not conquer; he never besieged a city he did not take.’ Even the French were impressed. A Valois chronicler stated: ‘He was one of the greatest and best knights ever seen. In his time, he was renowned the world over and won the respect of all.’

The Black Prince won his spurs at Crécy, on 26 August 1346, aged just sixteen. Edward III’s army used the longbow to deadly effect – annihilating the French nobility – and the Prince fought with conspicuous courage that day. Nine years later he received his first independent command as king’s lieutenant in Gascony, conducting a brutal plundering raid that scorched the earth of Languedoc. But it was at Poitiers, on 19 September 1356, that he won a truly remarkable victory over the numerically superior French, capturing their king, Jean II. In the battle’s aftermath, Jean was forced to accept the terms of a treaty which marked the zenith of England’s dominance in the Hundred Years War.

Edward of Woodstock then became Prince of Aquitaine, ruling – from 1362 – over a vast swathe of territory in southwest France. Five years later, he led an Anglo-Gascon army into northern Spain on behalf of the exiled ruler Pedro of Castile and won his last great success. At Nájera – on 3 April 1367 – he routed the opposing Franco-Castilian army of Enrique of Trastamara and restored Pedro I to the throne.

In purely military terms, the battle of Nájera was the Black Prince’s most impressive achievement. He skilfully reconnoitred the terrain before making a daring night-time march around his opponent’s position, drawn up on a wide plain to the east of the town. As dawn broke, his army made a surprise attack upon Enrique’s left flank. This was instinctive generalship – the Prince deploying his bowmen and dismounted men-at-arms with devastating effect before throwing in his cavalry to pursue and cut down his fleeing foe. The chronicler Henry of Knighton said simply: ‘It was the greatest battle to have taken place in our time.’

Yet, in a broader context, Nájera represented a flawed triumph. The Prince’s conduct of the campaign was on occasions hesitant and lacklustre, and although this was redeemed by a fine victory, its consequences (in which the army succumbed to a dysentery outbreak and Pedro reneged on financial obligations he had promised to repay) left him struggling with sickness and massive debt.

It was the battle of Poitiers that made the strongest impression on contemporaries. Here the Prince showed the full range of his talents: tactical acumen and astonishing courage during the course of the fighting and praiseworthy chivalry – in his treatment of his captured opponent, King Jean II – in its aftermath. It was the summit of his career as England’s warrior-hero.

  •  Do you think the Black Prince would have made a good king?

 The Black Prince passed away on 8 June 1376 – just over a year before the death of his father – after enduring a long and painful illness. His body lay in state in Westminster Hall and his funeral was then held at Canterbury Cathedral, some three and a half months later, on 29 September, amidst an outpouring of national grief. ‘Thus died the hope of the English’, Thomas Walsingham remarked. The poet John Gower hailed the Prince as an exemplar of knighthood: ‘He was never discomfited in a fight…he was a wellspring of courage.’ And in his funeral sermon Thomas Brinton, bishop of Rochester, evoked an era that seemed to be passing: ‘His wisdom appeared not only in his habit of speaking prudently’, Brinton emphasised, ‘but also in his manner of acting, because he did not merely talk like the lords of today but was a doer of deeds.’

Yet an idealised picture was being created. The Prince had, after all, been seriously ill for a long time and it suited contemporaries to remember the glorious victories of his prime rather than his final years in France, which were tarnished by the levying of a hearth tax on his Gascon subjects, the ill-fated resumption of the war and the sack of the French town of Limoges – although here hostile propaganda would play a part in unjustly blackening the Prince’s reputation.

The Black Prince’s generosity towards his fellow fighters left him constantly in debt.  A measure of financial prudence was necessary to be a successful ruler. However, if he had retained his health, his martial standing and easy rapport with the aristocracy would have been considerable assets as king. And at beginning of his rule as Prince of Aquitaine he did indeed show much promise, particularly in his commitment to justice and good government. In contrast, the last days of Edward III’s reign were beset by corruption and mismanagement, making the profound sense of loss at the Prince’s passing only too understandable.

  • Was any part of Richard II’s ‘tyranny’ justified?

Richard II was a very different man from his father. Intelligent and cultivated, he thought carefully about the dignity of kingship, possibly modelling some of his court protocol on what he had learnt of the magnificence of the Black Prince’s rule in Aquitaine. Yet he was no warrior – preferring instead to make peace with France – and his relations with his nobles were marred by distrust and outbursts of petty spite.

The period of ‘tyranny’, a description coined by the chronicler Thomas Walsingham, covered the last two years of Richard’s rule, from 1397-9, when the monarch took his revenge on the Appellants (a group of lords who had restricted his royal powers some eight years earlier), created a host of new aristocratic titles, imposed forced loans upon his subjects and strengthened royal power in the localities. In Richard’s eyes such measures were justified by his own concept of kingship, ‘an obligation laid upon him by God’, but political theory did not match practical reality. He ruled in a climate of fear, alienating many around him and ultimately sowed the seeds of his own downfall.

  • In the fifteenth century, did the Yorkists or the Lancastrians have a better claim to the throne?

 The Lancastrian dynasty began when Henry Bolingbroke, the future Henry IV, deposed the anointed king, Richard II, forcing him to abdicate. The Lancastrian claim to the throne derived from their descent from John of Gaunt (Henry’s father), the third surviving son of Edward III, through the male line. If the female line was given precedence the House of York had the better claim, through their descent from Lionel duke of Clarence (Edward’s second surviving son), through the marriage of Lionel’s daughter, Philippa, to Edmund Mortimer, earl of March – it was the granddaughter of this union, Anne Mortimer, Richard duke of York’s mother, who brought this claim into his family.

However enmity between the houses of York and Lancaster – founded upon this dynastic fault line – a feature of the drift to civil war in the 1450s, was by no means inevitable. Richard duke of York served Henry VI loyally as king’s lieutenant in France and it was only after his replacement by his hated rival Edmund Beaufort, duke of Somerset and fears that Somerset might manipulate the king and challenge York’s position within the realm as heir presumptive (evident in his articles against the duke in 1452) that the Mortimer claim, and the family’s descent from Lionel of Clarence, was once more considered. In short, it was Henry VI’s failure to dispense patronage and political influence even-handedly that propelled the house of York towards asserting its own claim to the throne.

  • Did Margaret Beaufort consistently plot to put her son, Henry Tudor, on the throne, or was she – initially at least – trying to engineer his return to England, and a position within the Yorkist realm?

It is a pleasure to see such a resurgence of interest in Margaret Beaufort – one of the great political survivors of the late middle ages – in fiction, non-fiction and TV. When I undertook my 1992 biography, with Malcolm Underwood, The King’s Mother, little was known about her political role and many of the key facts of her life misunderstood. Tudor historians would later insinuate that Margaret was always trying to advance her son’s claim to the throne but the reality was rather different.

Margaret Beaufort was always the pragmatist – and the archives of St John’s College, Cambridge, show her negotiating with Edward IV to secure a title and marriage for Henry Tudor within the Yorkist polity, a course of action that she continued to pursue at the very beginning of Richard III’s reign. It was only later in the summer of 1483 that Margaret began plotting against Richard. In the words of Polydore Vergil she ‘was commonly called the head of that conspiracy’, but whether her intention at this stage was to promote her son’s claim to the throne or merely to support Buckingham’s rebellion is far from clear. An accessible, recent account of these machinations can be found in the book I wrote with Philippa Gregory and David Baldwin, The Women of the Cousins’ War and in my piece ‘Mother of the Tudors’ in the BBC History Magazine (January 2017).

For Michael Jones’s author website see: www.michaeljoneshistorian.com

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Annette Carson: in sympathy with King Richard

To the delight of travelers across the globe, tired of lugging all those hard-copy books on planes, trains and automobiles, Annette Carson’s Richard III The Maligned King has just been released in ebook form and can now be purchased on Amazon.com.  Along with John Ashdown-Hill, Carson is part of a new generation of historians who have pushed forward new-found information that has helped to rehabilitate Richard the Third’s reputation in the 21st century with an energy matched only by their scholarship and dogged research.

Originally published in 2008, Richard III The Maligned King is not a biography but an examination of what happened from the moment his brother, Edward IV, died to his own untimely death.  It relies almost solely on contemporary accounts and moves in a direct timeline that makes enthralling reading.  Carson displays a ready wit and is not afraid to take on the hoary myths that cling to traditional historians like Spanish moss on a crumbling hacienda.

Although busy with new projects, Carson was able to spend a few moments with The Murrey and Blue to share her thoughts on Richard the Third and her background which led her to write about the maligned king.

Can you give us a little information on your background, Annette?

Like many people of my generation (I was born in 1940 and grew up in a single-parent family) I couldn’t afford a university education.  Music ran in my family and I was guided towards the Royal College of Music but I soon knew it wasn’t for me.  I married an actor and joined the staff of RADA as Front of House Manager, and then spent the next twenty years working the entertainment industry, including spells at Equity and Thames TV.

By 1984, having been involved for ten years in the sport of aerobatics and produced a fair amount of aviation writing and journalism, I was invited to co-author a book on aerobatic technique which was well received.  I was then commissioned to write a world history of aerobatics, which kicked off my professional writing career.  I enjoy technical writing and the research that goes with it, which in this case entailed learning Russian and took me to four continents.  That book sold 14,000 copies and my next book, a biography of the rock guitarist, Jeff Beck, is still in print and has sold over 15,000.

As you can tell, I follow where my muse takes me…so when other authorial ideas didn’t take off (I was JUST beaten to the draw on a proposed biography of Alan Rickman!) it occurred to me to put my ideas about Richard III into a book.

I’d been fascinated by Richard since 1955 when I was taken to see Olivier’s film of Richard III on a school trip.  Already a great lover of Shakespeare, I had never thought to doubt his mesmerizing portrayal of villainy.  So it hit me like a thunderbolt when my teacher said that many people considered him to have been a very good king whose reputation was deliberately blackened.  I’m something of a campaigner at heart – I took a particular injustice as far as the House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights – so from my schooldays onwards I read as much as possible to try to uncover the truth.

Can you tell us something about your research methods?

Obviously, the ideas in my book had been germinating throughout decades of reading, so I had a lot in place by the time of the first draft in about 2002.  Fortunately, many of the standard sources were in print long before the internet became the resource it is today and my research entailed mining the documents and articles referenced by writers from Paul Murray Kendall onwards.  That’s my advice to anyone wanting to delve into where our ideas about history stem from:  become a reader of footnotes!

Paul Murray Kendall’s footnotes alone are worth the price of the book and often overlooked when traditionalists criticize him.  You did not write a biography of Richard.  Why?

I specifically didn’t want to write a biography because I was interested only in certain aspects of the years 1483-1485.  I had formulated several original ideas I wanted to explore, starting with what was known of the bones discovered in the 17th century and thought to be Richard’s nephews.  A major item of interest was to visualize exactly where they were found and what the staircase was like and the terrain around that area.  For this I got plans from Historic Royal Palaces and called on expert help from a civil engineer in order to commission an illustration – the only image I know that accurately depicts the discovery site based on contemporary descriptions, aided by illustrations, surveys and plans of the Tower.  I also wanted to highlight the importance of the jaw disease of the elder skull, and how significant this would have been if it had belonged to the heir of the crown.

Another thing I was keen to research was witchcraft in England in the 15th century, something which, because it already interested me, I knew the usual run of historians got completely wrong and still do.  There were many other original ideas – too many to mention – but several have now entered the general Ricardian discourse:  e.g. my taking apart all the myth-making in Vergil like Henry Tudor’s supposed oath to marry Elizabeth and the story that her mother meekly gave him her hand thinking her sons were dead.  Until then it had always been recited as genuine ‘history’.  And then, of course, my introduction of Richard’s bride-to-be Princess Joanna of Portugal, complete with colour portrait, whose existence had been known to readers of scholarly works but only as a shadowy figure.  I still maintain (with support from Arthur Kincaid) that my reading of Elizabeth of York’s letter in the Portuguese context is the only one that satisfactorily explains what the young Elizabeth was referring to.

Joanna must be one of the most under-reported stories in the history of Richard III.  Do you consider yourself a Ricardian?

By the time I finished in 2005 I had already written 160,000 words, so you can imagine how long a biography would have been!  My overall concern was (and is) always to set 15th-century events firmly in the relevant 15th century context.

I like to call myself a Ricardian because I am in sympathy with King Richard but I have to be careful of the word these days because it’s beginning to be used to signify blinkered adulation.  As recently as last year the President of the Richard III Society used the term ‘Ricardian translation’ to mean a pro-Richard whitewash.  I have no problem with anyone who admires Richard or with novelists who fictionalize him but it’s worrying when the boundaries get blurred and even Ricardians sometimes fail to make a distinction.

Occasionally I have to check your book and other non-fiction to see whether ‘a fact’ I’m using in an argument is indeed true or was inserted in one of the many novels written about the king.  It gets confusing.

Let’s be clear that I’m all in favour of speculation, because it can open up startling new trains of thought – and the Ricardian ground is so well-trodden that any new way of looking at something can be good for broadening horizons!  It’s sad, actually, that so many readers want a book about history to be a history lesson, and so many historians want to give them precisely that, right down to psychological profiling.  Whereas my job as a non-fiction writer is to explain how few and tenuous are those things that could be deemed factual, and to offer alternative constructions to conjure with and ponder upon.  I say what I think, and what others think but I don’t tell you they are the only conclusions.

What are you working on now?

I’m afraid there won’t be any new work on Richard III.  Unfortunately, I’ve found the atmosphere around Ricardian studies growing distinctly uncongenial and egocentric, so I’ve returned to aviation.  I am presently researching a biography of a courageous young World War I pilot which I hope to be ready for his commemoration in 2018.

My last Ricardian outing is assisting Arthur Kincaid with his updated and revised edition of Sir George Buc’s History of Richard III, which involves many interesting discussions and much repeated proof-reading.  Interestingly, the reason for Dr. Kincaid’s departure from the Ricardian community thirty years ago resembles mine.  It took considerable encouragement and persuasion for him to return to Buc, and I promise that when it’s published it will contain a treasure-trove of accurate and illuminating footnote references to delve into.

So you haven’t completely moved on from the maligned king!  I look forward to being able to buy both of your new books.  Thank you so much for sharing your time with the Murrey & Blue and I hope everyone purchases this new electronic edition .

annette 3

Interview with Ian Dixon Potter

From the Golden Age Theatre Company’s Facebook page.

Good King Richard poster

Nick Randell interviews playwright Ian Dixon Potter about ‘Good King Richard’ prior to the first performance in December 2015:

https://soundcloud.com/…/sns-online-bitesized-series-3-good…

The play now transfers to The Drayton Arms Theatre in South Kensington starting next Tuesday. Performances are Tuesdays to Saturdays at 8pm. Saturday matinees at 3pm. The final performance is on 12th March.
Discover the truth about Richard III in a real life Game of Thrones.
Produced by Golden Age Theatre Company:
http://www.goldenagetheatre.com

Insurrection: Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell and the Pilgrimage of Grace

insurrectionAn intriguing new book by historian Susan Loughlin is about to be published by The History Press on April 4th of this year (2016) detailing an event in world history that has perhaps gone unnoticed by some historians and those who run with the history blogs and bloggers.

 

Doc-grantham

Susan at The Angel and Royal Inn in Grantham outside the door of the room where Richard 3 signed Buckingham’s death warrant.

 

 

I first “met” Susan Loughlin  on the popular Facebook group “Ricardian” administered by author Stephen Lark that has over 1,000 members and counting.  (I’m one of the 7 moderators of that group.)  Susan has always brought her serious and knowledgeable input to issues relating to King Richard the Third and is known for her spunky attitude towards historians and others who dare to hand out misinformation about this much maligned king.  But her new book is not about Richard but relates the story of  Henry VIII and a popular rebellion that occurred in 1536 when 30,000 men took up arms against the king during the dissolution of the monasteries.  Her book “Insurrection:  Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell and the Pilgrimage of Grace” is available for pre-order at Amazon.com and will be available in the USA/Canada in June/July:

http://www.amazon.com/insurrection-Henry-Thomas-Cromwell-Pilgrimage/dp/0750967331/ref

 

I was lucky enough to interview Susan this past month.  Here are some of her thoughts on her life, her new book and Ricardian issues.

Susie, can you tell us something about where you were born and grew up?

I was born in London, the daughter of Irish immigrants and grew up in the northern suburbs of the city.  I was educated at primary and secondary schools in Muswell Hill and Finchley.

Tell us something about your education.

I am grateful to the wonderful teachers I was fortunate enough to have – in particular, Mr. Steven Lilly, who encouraged my curiosity and love of the Humanities.  I vividly recall being taught the ‘traditional’ version of the Wars of the Roses at secondary school and recently had a conversation about this with my old school friend, Lydia.  We both remember being unconvinced by the narrative we were told with regard to Richard III.

I received eight O Levels and three A Levels (including one in History) and obtained a place in three UK universities to study History.  However, I decided to go to work for a year and deferred my places.  I then got used to a regular salary:  I took driving lessons, holidays, and in particular, a wonderful trip to California.  I remained working and changed careers to work in Local Government in London.  I also studied for my professional qualification whilst working and spent a number of years delivering front-line services in the London Borough of Barnet; the second largest borough.  Of course, Barnet was the site of one of the most prominent battles of the Wars of the Roses.  There are many roads in the area which bear testimony to this:  Gloucester Road, Warwick Road, Plantagenet Road, York Road, Lancaster Road and Woodville Road!  In addition, the local County Court sessions were held in a building named Kingmaker House!

When I relocated to Ireland, I decided to embark upon my study of History at the National University of Ireland, Galway.  This institution began life by Royal charter in the reign of Queen Victoria and was originally known as Queen’s University, Galway – a sister to the institutions in Belfast, Dublin and Cork.  Following the establishment of the Irish Republic, Galway became known as University College of Galway and most recently, the National University of Ireland, Galway.

I decided to pursue my passion for History, Classical Civilizations and Political Science.  It would have been tempting to take a pragmatic approach and opt for a potentially safe and lucrative path, such as Law, but I decided to pursue my own interests, for my own pleasure.  Academia is incredibly competitive and most people do not enter it in expectation of materialistic dividends.  It is, in fact, a labour of love.

I studied many different modules of History, including Irish, European, and English.  My A Level included Early Modern history, so I was drawn, in particular, to these subjects.  I was fortunate enough to study under many fine lecturers, including Professor Steven Ellis, a Tudor expert and the head of both the History department and the School of Humanities.  I am grateful for being endowed with the title University Scholar during my BA degree and graduated with First Class honours in both History and Political Science.  I then began studying for my research PhD, under the direction of Professor Ellis and obtained a scholarship and the title Galway Doctoral Research Fellow.

And here I was so proud of my little BA!  But I’m so happy to hear you defend the study of History and other areas of intellect when so many of people think University’s raison d’etre is to end up in a well-paying job.  That attitude is one of my pet peeves.

Please tell us what made you a Ricardian?

As I mentioned, I remember being taught the standard version of events regarding Richard III, the Battle of Bosworth and how Henry VII reunited the Houses of Lancaster and York.  However, like my school friend, I had misgivings with regard to the portrayal of Richard III.  He just appeared like a pantomime villain character and actually reminded me of the cartoon character ‘Dick Dastardly’ from ‘Wacky Races’!  Something just didn’t sit right and I was left with a lingering curiosity about the man.  I met a friend at work, who had actually studied Richard’s reign for both her BA and MA.  She was utterly convinced that the king was a victim of a Tudor smear campaign.

When I started studying Henry VIII in depth, I realized what a deeply insecure individual he was.  His father’s ‘claim’ to the throne was, at best, flimsy and by all accounts, Henry VII was extremely paranoid.  This trait was evidently passed on to his son.  Henry VIII was totally obsessed with securing the Tudor dynasty by providing a male heir; something which eluded him until the birth of Prince Edward in 1537.  It occurred to me that only interlopers would be insecure and systematic in their attempt to conceal the truth and justify their own positions.  It is well known how Henry VII behaved in eradicating Plantagenet claimants; a task completed by his son with the obscene execution of the sixty-seven year old Countess of Salisbury, Margaret Pole.  (Margaret’s son, Reginald, was in exile on the continent and managed to avoid capture, despite Henry having assassins in pursuit of him.)

That has got to be one of the more grisly of Henry VIII’s many grisly acts!  There is a paucity of evidence for Richard’s reign – why is  this?

The contemporary accounts which do exist are contradictory and flawed.  It is not the place for a discussion of the sources here but I would recommend Annette Carson’s Richard III:  The Maligned King, The History Press, Stroud, 2013, pp. 330-348  for a succinct appraisal.  What I would add, however, is that it is simply preposterous to any serious historian to accept either Thomas More’s The History of King Richard III or Shakespeare’s play, The Tragedy of King Richard III (written in 1592) as sources.  More was born in 1478 and, as such, was five years old when Richard was crowned.  In addition, his mentor had been John Morton.  The same Morton who had conspired against Richard and was Archbishop of Canterbury by Henry VII in 1486.

More’s work was never finished.  Why was this?

I find it incredulous that one of the leading Humanist scholars of the day (a frequent correspondent of Erasmus) should have included such demonstrably ludicrous ‘facts’ as Richard being born after a two year gestation, with a full set of teeth.  My own view is that Thomas More was, to use a London colloquialism, ‘having a laugh’.

A central tenet of my own personality is contempt for injustice.  Given the lack of credible sources and blatant Tudor propaganda, I believe Richard III has been vilified, without the evidence to support such claims.

Let me be clear, I do not hold a romanticized view of the man nor perceive him as a knight in shining armour.  He was not a saint.  Far from it.  But let us place him in the context of his times and not project our own values onto him.  Let us not assume to know him or his thoughts from small crumbs of evidence.  He was a medieval magnate and king.  He did things that were necessary to survive and protect his own interests.  Did he love Anne Neville or marry for land and wealth?  Frankly, I do not care!  We cannot speculate about his mind-set.  We cannot extrapolate grandiose theories from what little we have.  He was not a Lollard; neither was he a Renaissance prince.  He was simply a prince of the blood, forced into a situation where he had, I believe, no option but to accept the crown offered to him by the Three Estates of the Realm.  What was the alternative?  I leave you to ponder that.

I will!

Richard III is a ‘victim’ of injustice – caused not only by Tudor propaganda but the chaotic set of circumstances that his brother, King Edward IV bequeathed to him.

Yes, Edward certainly left a mess.  Given your Ricardian bona fides, how did you turn to the subject of Henry the 8th and the dissolution of the monasteries?

My university did not offer a module on The Wars of the Roses, so, as discussed above, I studied English, Irish and European Early Modern History.  Professor Ellis is a specialist in peripheral Tudor regions and administration and also in the religious aspects of Henry VIII’s reign.  We decided that I would research the Pilgrimage of Grace – it combined a study of the North of England and the Henrician religious experiment.

Let’s talk about your new book.  Perhaps because I’m American, I do not know much about the pushback of 30,000 men against Henry’s very famous actions.  Can you tell us a little about these men and what they did or did not accomplish?

That’s interesting, Maire, because I was completely unaware of the Pilgrimage of Grace until I studied it as an undergraduate under Professor Ellis.  It had obviously been ‘air-brushed’ out of conventional, general, Whig interpretations of the English Reformation.  Hence, only those in academia or with an avid and thorough knowledge of the reign of Henry VIII would be familiar with it.  And I shudder when I think of the inaccurate portrayal of the event in the TV series, ‘The Tudors’!

Essentially, the Pilgrimage was the largest popular rising against a Tudor monarch and had the potential to threaten Henry’s throne.  30,000 men, of all social orders took up arms against the king in the autumn of 1536.  Their intentions were abundantly clear – they wished for a return to the ‘old ways’ of religious worship, for the monasteries to stand and for Princess Mary’s reinstatement as Henry’s heir.

The Pilgrims succeeded in so far as the king was forced to agree to a truce in order to cease hostilities and a copy of the rebels’ grievances were taken to him by two of the rebel leaders.  Henry was indignant and felt that his honour was much diminished and reluctantly agreed to consider their grievances and convene a parliament in York to discuss the issues.  He issued a pardon but it is apparent that he had no intention of honouring it – he only wished to stop the rising’s momentum.  When some disenchanted rebels realized that the King and Duke of Norfolk had been duplicitous, further risings ensued in 1537.  This afforded Henry the opportunity to seek retribution for the events of the previous autumn.

The Pilgrimage was a missed opportunity for religious conservatives and the book discusses the pitfalls that prevented the movement achieving its explicit aims.  One rebel, however, is particularly interesting, in that he did not fit the usual Pilgrim ‘profile’ and is something of an enigma.  Sir Francis Bigod was a Yorkshire gentleman and a known Evangelical.  His behavior has been somewhat a puzzle to historians.  In 1536, he was a staunch defender of King Henry’s religious innovations and expressed his desire to be a priest and preacher in a letter to Cromwell in April.  A few months earlier, he had reported the Abbot of Whitby for denying the Royal Supremacy.  Thus his involvement as one of the leaders of renewed rebellion in January 1537 is hard to reconcile with his previous behavior.  He even wrote a treatise denouncing the Royal Supremacy and arguing the king could not have ‘cure’ of his subjects’ souls.  Needless to say, he paid the price with his life.

The book also examines the punishment handed out by a vengeful monarch and explains why some former rebels managed successfully to rehabilitate themselves.  The links between retribution and reward are examined in a study of patronage and the governance of the region in the aftermath of the rebellion.

Another rising in the North was not attempted against until 1569, in the reign of Elizabeth, but this, I would suggest, illustrates the latent conservative nature of the inhabitants and a lingering resentment with changes imposed upon them by force and betrayal.  Historians Michael Bush and David Bownes have argued that if the Pilgrimage had succeeded the Anglican Church was ‘certain’ to return to Roman Catholicism and that the dissolutions would not have occurred (see Bush & Bownes, The Defeat of the Pilgrimage of Grace, University of Hull Press, 1999).  Had the Pilgrimage been successful, the course of English religious history, would arguably have been very different.

As always, English history fascinates and perplexes at the same time.  Thank you, Susie and congratulations on your new book. Read more…

An interview with Phillippa Langley – Part One …

… in which we question the “Kingfinder General”:

1) Did your name, shared with two of Richard III’s great-grandparents, interest you in him?

I remember being intrigued by seeing the name Langley and the Philippas in his Plantagenet ancestry and family tree but it wasn’t what interested me in Richard. I was captivated by his extraordinary historical story, why it had never been placed centre-stage on our screens and why the Shakespearean grotesque was (and is) continually, and endlessly, rolled out in its stead.

2) Do you have any news from Reading on their quest for the abbey church?

No further news as yet but the Hidden Abbey Project is Reading’s exciting new research initiative that aims to uncover as much as it can about one of Western Europe’s most important medieval buildings. Research gets underway in 2016 with the first-ever Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey of the site. The landowners will be working with Historic England (formerly English Heritage) as the site holds National Monument status so it will be a step by step process under their auspices.

3) Are you planning to research the Stanley family’s archives?

Short answer is yes. The Princes Project aims to leave no stone unturned in the hope that we can help shed new light on the enduring mystery surrounding the disappearance of the sons of Edward IV and inform ongoing study into the life and times of King Richard. Is it possible that the mystery can be solved; is there anything to be found? We cannot of course know, but what we do know is that for the very first-time we are looking and this is what is important. The project is also looking at the mystery in an entirely new way and asking questions that to my knowledge have never been asked before. If Richard is to be finally laid to rest, this mystery is for me the final frontier in terms of research into the last Plantagenet and we are fortunate to have a growing team of researchers and experts behind it.

4) Many families and guilds are opening their archives to help with your quest to find out what really happened to the sons of Edward IV. Are there also people, or institutions that have declined to help? If so, what reason did they give?

The Princes Project has been incredibly privileged with everyone we have contacted thus far (and who have contacted us) moving heaven and earth to help. Only one connection was not quite as helpful as we’d hoped but this was probably because their records had been moved from the family home to the National Archives in London.

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